SHSU Students LEAP into Law Class

On Wednesday, 31 fortunate SHSU students gathered in a classroom to experience a one-of-a-kind opportunity. The Law, Engagement, and Politics organization, otherwise known as LEAP, partnered with South Texas College of Law of Houston to bring a “Mock Law Class” to Sam Houston State University.

South Texas College of Law Professor Val Ricks and the STCL Assistant Dean of Admissions, Alicia Cramer, both arrived at SHSU on Wednesday, ready to make an impact on the pre-law students’ lives. The students who were fortunate enough to take part in the Mock Law Class were all prepared with days worth of reading and trying our best to comprehend the two assigned cases. When the day came, all of the scholars, dressed in business attire, were prepared and ready for class to start. Everyone, from freshmen to seniors, have begun to feel the pressure of law school, and yet we were all excited to get started with the Mock Law Class. I personally, was very nervous at the prospect of attending a Law Class, as I did not know what to expect. But was sure that whatever happened this would be one more new learning experience to get me closer to law school.


Everyone took a deep breath as Professor Ricks entered and began the class by introducing himself and telling us about his law experience. Then he began with the really fun part we had all been waiting for. First, we reviewed the cases and deciphered how each rule applied to them. And then, Professor Ricks started conducting the class in a very interesting manner. As we read over the cases, he would ask different individuals questions. Of course, not really having much experience, some of us came to the incorrect conclusions. But instead of correcting us in the regular fashion, Professor Ricks used the Socratic method so that the students could find their way to the correct answer (or, sometimes another incorrect answer) all on their own (or with the help of their peers). The class continued in this style that many students are intimidated by, but all of the students in the class seemed eager to be called upon.


When one student would get stumped on a question, over half of the class had their hands raised, ready to assist. Most students thought that this type of method worked extremely well and allowed them to feel as if they were already in law school. “I thought it was extremely informative,” stated Brittany Lightfoot, “I liked how he treated us like actual law school students, and how when he asked us questions, he helped us get to the right answer instead of just asking and expecting us to know!” This classroom filled with likeminded people who were ready to learn and prepared made me even more excited for my future law school endeavors!


Afterwards, Professor Ricks remained behind for a moment to answer any questions we had concerning any aspect of a law class setting, grades, or professors. Then he turned the attention over to Mrs. Alicia Cramer, the Assistant Dean of Admissions. She presented to us the various requirements needed to get into South Texas College of Law and even other law schools.


It is true that the class was rigorous and a bit hard, but everyone was fully engaged in the class and welcomed the questions. It was a very enjoyable experience and thanks to Professor Rick’s guidance, we were all able to succeed and leave with an invigorated spirit. “Beforehand, I was nervous because I thought that it was going to be hard, and I didn’t feel as prepared as I was. Afterwards I found that I really enjoyed myself, because it taught me how to better prepare for issues that of the utmost importance, not just in law but in life itself,” said fellow classmate, Jamaus Williams.

Many thanks to Professor Ricks and Assistant Dean Alicia Cramer, for taking the time to come to SHSU and teaching us such valuable lessons and giving us a new sense of purpose and motivation. The Mock Law Class provided us with the opportunity to discover if this path was right for us and if it was, then be motivated even more to accomplish it.




Today@Sam Covers LEAP Center’s Mock Law Class


Today@Sam provided in-depth coverage of the LEAP Center and its pre-law programming, offering a special emphasis on the LEAP Center’s recent Mock Law class.


Program Gives Students Law School Experience

At first glance, it looked much like any other class at Sam Houston State University.  A distinguished professor led an in-depth classroom discussion, facilitating comments among the 35 or so students assembled for a typical 75 minute class session. A keen observer, however, might have noted that the students were dressed in business attire, that the teaching style was exclusively the Socratic Method, and that all the students had read.  What was going on?

What was going on was a “Mock Law Class,” a unique partnership between the Center For Law, Engagement, And Politics (LEAP) and the South Texas College of Law, in which pre-law students had the opportunity to participate in a simulated law class.  The class was taught by Professor Val Ricks, whose qualifications include a JD from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark’s Law School, time as an Associate Attorney with Kirton & McConkie, and 18 years teaching at South Texas College of Law, including five years as the Vinson & Elkins Research Professor of Law.  The preparation for the class involved in-depth readings of three legal cases and the knowledge that the class would be fully participatory—there were no “passes” given when called upon.


To participate, students were required to sign up for the class in advance and agree to read the original court opinions issued by the courts.  The result was some dense reading, the expectation of being called upon and pressed for answers, and a bit of trepidation heading into the classroom.  “It was a little more intense than a regular class,” observed pre-law student Kaitlyn Tyra, “but it was good to get that experience.”

SHSU Senior Daylene Moreno agreed: “The way Professor Ricks engaged the students kept the class actively involved, and the experience solidified my plan to attend law school. I cannot wait to get an acceptance letter!”

“The idea of the class,” noted LEAP Center Director Mike Yawn, “is to help prepare our students for law school or for making the decision about law school.  There are so many uncertainties about post-graduate education, particularly law school, it’s important to give students a realistic view of what the experience is and allow them to use that information to make good decisions.”

In recent years, many SHSU students have made the decision to apply to law school.  In fact, the Law School Admissions Council now ranks SHSU as a top “law-school feeder,” meaning that it is among the top six percent of the nation’s Universities at producing law-school applicants.  Last year, for example, 97 SHSU students applied to law school, with 60 being accepted to one or more law schools, including Baylor, University of Colorado, University of Houston, Indiana University, Loyola, Penn State, University of Minnesota, Syracuse, SMU, University of Texas and South Texas College of Law.

In all, SHSU students applied to 92 different law schools last year, and South Texas College of Law was the one most applied to—45 different SHSU students applied there.  “We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of SHSU students applying here,” noted Denee Page, the Associated Director of Admissions. “This is the third year we’ve done the Mock Law Class at SHSU, and we’ve been impressed by how prepared and interested the students are in the class.”

The Mock Law Class is one of several activities that the LEAP Center offers to help pre-law students.  This spring alone, the LEAP Center has partnered with Kaplan to offer a Mock LSAT, worked with other law schools to provide informational sessions, and brought in several practicing attorneys to meet with students.  In addition, on April 1st the LEAP Center is hosting the 10th Court of Appeals, which will hear Oral Arguments in four separate cases.  On April 14th the LEAP Center will host a presentation by Michael Morton, whose wrongful conviction in 1987 and subsequent 25 year imprisonment resulted in the Texas Legislature’s Michael Morton Act, which changed the rules of the discovery process.

The LEAP Center’s programs go beyond law-related programs and extend to all academic disciplines. “Our goal,” noted Yawn, “is to expose students to diverse learning opportunities across all fields.” To that end, earlier this semester LEAP Center students lunched with Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, attended the Governor’s Inauguration in Austin, and have worked regularly with local non-profits.  Later this semester, the LEAP Center will host a non-profit roundtable, a student workshop on “Paths to Public Service,” and will partner with the Huntsville Public Library to offer a “Citizenship Preparatory Course” to local immigrants who wish to earn their citizenship.

For more information about the LEAP Center, contact Professor Mike Yawn at or 936-294-1456.


Mock Law Class Comes to SHSU

The LEAP center partnered with South Texas College of Law from Houston to offer a Mock Law Class for SHSU students. Prior to the class, students were sent the case reading and expected to be ready to analyze the cases in class just as actual law students at South Texas College of Law (STCL) would do.


In fact, Professor Val Ricks–who taught the class–teaches at STCL.  He began class with open-ended questions to lead the discussion toward the rules of each case. He then let students guide themselves through their answers, although he was quick to question–and correct them–when needed.

Professor Val Ricks
                         Professor Val Ricks

The Mock Law Class gave students a clear idea on the structure and expectations of law school. Additionally, students realized the importance of reading prior to class and being prepared for discussion. Professor Val Ricks and STCL Admissions Coordinator, Ms. Denee Page, were also available to answer student’s questions after the class. Students took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the law school admissions process and the philosophies of South Texas’s College of Law.


This event helped students gain a greater understanding of the reality and rigor of law school. For many, the Mock Law Class helped give a sense of direction for students on how to begin their law school journey. Many thanks to Professor Val Ricks and Ms. Denee Page for helping SHSU students learn and helping them prepare for their next steps toward a career in law.